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My Take: Obama channels Reagan at Boston interfaith service
April 18th, 2013
06:27 PM ET

My Take: Obama channels Reagan at Boston interfaith service

Editor's note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

At the interfaith prayer service held in today for the victims of the Boston marathon bombing (including Lu Lingzi, a graduate student at Boston University, where I teach), President Barack Obama was once again called upon to play the pastor-in-chief at a moment of national tragedy.

In his speech, Obama did a lot of cheering for the home town, praising Boston as “the perfect state of grace.” He recalled his time as a law student at Harvard. He cheered on the Red Sox, the Celtics, the Patriots, and the Bruins. And he repeatedly referred to Bostonians as a gritty people who would not give in to terrorism in the 21st century any more than they bowed to the British in the 18th.

As I listened to the speech, however, I couldn't help hearing echoes of President Ronald Reagan.

After the 2012 election, and particularly after Obama’s second inauguration, many pundits started to refer to him as the “Liberal Reagan.” Just as Reagan made it OK to be conservative in the 1980s, Obama now seemed poised to make it OK to be liberal. He seemed less worried about failure and more comfortable with his convictions. I see this "Liberal Reagan" in Obama’s outrage at the Senate’s rejection on Wednesday of even the most milquetoast gun control legislation.

But I heard Reagan himself in Obama’s speech at the interfaith prayer service.

Reagan's success as a president turned on his optimism and his resolve. In a sense, these two rhetorical notes are at odds. Optimism can be seen as soft, even wishy-washy. Who but a fool (or a liberal) can be optimistic in the face of communism or terrorism or a difficult Congress? The other is hard and unbending: the resolve to face up to communists or terrorists or Democrats at home whose policies seem designed to drive American society to the brink of extinction.

Yet together optimism and resolve served Reagan well, transforming him into one of our most popular presidents, despite the often polarizing positions he took on domestic and foreign policies alike.

The heart of Obama’s speech today came about halfway in when he quoted from the second letter of Timothy in the Christian Bible: “God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).

Obama then praised “doctors and nurses, police and firefighters and EMTs and guardsmen” for running toward the explosions. “That’s discipline,” he said. He praised “exhausted runners” who themselves became first responders, tending to the wounds of spectators. “That’s real power,” he said. And “when Bostonians carry victims in their arms, deliver water and blankets, line up to give blood, open their homes to total strangers, give them rides back to reunite with their families, that’s love.”

Obama next pivoted to the perpetrators themselves, addressing them directly (and to much applause):

That’s the message we send to those who carried this out and anyone who would do harm to our people. Yes, we will find you. And yes, you will face justice. We will find you. We will hold you accountable.

Obama's speech was a celebration of the spirit of the city of Boston and the resilience of the American people. It was an optimistic speech, and a speech of high resolve.

As Obama turned his attention to the injured, he combined these two Reaganesque notes, looking forward to a better future when those who lost their legs will, through faith and hard work, learn to run again. Your city, your commonwealth, and your country are with you, the president said. “We will all be with you as you learn to stand and walk and, yes, run again. Of that I have no doubt. You will run again.”

Obama then spoke of the resolve of his fellow Americans, and promised that this time next year the Boston Marathon would be run yet again to even louder cheers. But what caught me up was his hope, and his conviction. Yes, "the Democrats' Reagan" was addressing the people of Boston and the American people. But he was also addressing himself, steeling his own resolve, vowing to "run with endurance the race" that is set before him, and resolving to do so with hope and conviction.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Barack Obama • Bible • Interfaith issues • Massachusetts • My Take • Politics • United States

soundoff (160 Responses)
  1. Science

    Update :

    See for yourself below.................The fairy in the sky did NOT create us !!!.......politicians should know this .

    Monkey Math: Baboons Show Brain's Ability to Understand Numbers ..........E = mc2..............(U-Pb) numbers do not lie !

    May 3, 2013 — Opposing thumbs, expressive faces, complex social systems: it's hard to miss the similarities between apes and humans. Now a new study with a troop of zoo baboons and lots of peanuts shows that a less obvious trait – the ability to understand numbers – also is shared by humans and their primate cousins.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130503132719.htm

    OR.........take a ride on a DINO.

    Fossil records are better to read than the nasty bible..................no god(s) required !

    Oldest? New 'Bone-Head' Dinosaur Hints at Higher Diversity of Small Dinosaurs

    May 7, 2013 — Scientists have named a new species of bone-headed dinosaur (pachycephalosaur) from Alberta, Canada. Acrotholus audeti (Ack-RHO-tho-LUS) was identified from both recently discovered and historically collected fossils. Approximately six feet long and weighing about 40 kilograms in life, the newly identified plant-eating dinosaur represents the oldest bone-headed dinosaur in North America, and possibly the world.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130507124800.htm

    May 8, 2013 at 7:11 am |
    • Science

      For all creationists and ID believers...............IT only takes minutes to figure IT out. No fairy in the sky needed !

      New Device Can Extract Human DNA With Full Genetic Data in Minutes

      May 6, 2013 — Take a swab of saliva from your mouth and within minutes your DNA could be ready for analysis and genome sequencing with the help of a new device.

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130506132100.htm

      May 9, 2013 at 10:01 am |
  2. Science

    Oops forgot the moral end of the deal !!!

    Free speech helps educate the masses................politicians too !

    Where do morals come from?

    By Kelly Murray, CNN

    http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/04/12/where-do-morals-come-from/#comments

    Gravity is not up for debate !

    BY the way ...................Splat goes a fairy in the sky !...............bye bye tinker bell !

    Einstein's Gravity Theory Passes Toughest Test Yet

    Apr. 25, 2013 — A strange stellar pair nearly 7,000 light-years from Earth has provided physicists with a unique cosmic laboratory for studying the nature of gravity. The extremely strong gravity of a massive neutron star in orbit with a companion white dwarf star puts competing theories of gravity to a test more stringent than any available before

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130425142250.htm

    Hey James Madison................religion has none it looks like.............with the comments on this blog.

    The Big question is ETHICS ! does religion have any ?

    The Ethics of Resurrecting Extinct Species

    Apr. 8, 2013 — At some point, scientists may be able to bring back extinct animals, and perhaps early humans, raising questions of ethics and environmental disruption.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130408165955.htm

    April 30, 2013 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |

    May 1, 2013 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |

    Dinosaur Egg Study Supports Evolutionary Link Between Birds and Dinosaurs: How Troodon Likely Hatched Its Young

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130418104324.htm

    And NO ANGELS the pope KICKED them OFF the TEAM last year !

    From Soup to Cells—the Origin of Life

    http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evosite/evo101/IIE2aOriginoflife.shtml

    the wrong path is Adam and Eve !

    Human Y Chromosome Much Older Than Previously Thought

    Mar. 4, 2013 — The discovery and analysis of an extremely rare African American Y chromosome pushes back the time of the most recent common ancestor for the Y chromosome lineage tree to 338,000 years ago. This time predates the age of the oldest known anatomically modern human fossils.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130305145821.htm

    No god(s) needed or required to graduate from public schools in the US

    Remember : Adam had to POKE himself hard with his OWN BONE to create Eve.

    No god(s) needed................... Old. DNA works..................also catches crooks !

    Ancient DNA Reveals Europe's Dynamic Genetic History

    Apr. 23, 2013 — Ancient DNA recovered from a series of skeletons in central Germany up to 7,500 years old has been used to reconstruct the first detailed genetic history of modern Europe.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130423134037.htm

    Ca-nabis and Cannabinoids (PDQ®) – National Cancer Insti-tute

    http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/cam/cannabis/.../page4

    Mar 21, 2013 – [1,2] These plant-derived compounds may be referred to as phytocannabinoids. ... have a protective effect against the development of certain types of tumors. ... In lung cancer cell lines, CBD upregulated ICAM-1, leading to ...

    Good stuff !

    The fact...............the earth is to old for this nonsemse ! Time to EVOLVE !

    Ancient Earth Crust Stored in Deep Mantle

    Apr. 24, 2013 — Scientists have long believed that lava erupted from certain oceanic volcanoes contains materials from the early Earth's crust. But decisive evidence for this phenomenon has proven elusive. New research from a team including Carnegie's Erik Hauri demonstrates that oceanic volcanic rocks contain samples of recycled crust dating back to the Archean era 2.5 billion years ago. Their work is published in Nature.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130424132705.htm

    For what...................... ? Make sure to read what the pope said !

    Where do morals come from?

    By Kelly Murray, CNN

    http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/

    Learning is fun with facts.......................... and facts work when teaching children.

    Atheist Prof. Peter Higgs: Stop calling Higgs boson the ‘God particle’

    Professor Peter Higgs said recently that there is no God and so people should stop referring to the theoretical partial that
    bears his name as the “God particle.”

    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/04/08/atheist-prof-peter-higgs-stop-calling-higgs-bosen-the-god-particle/

    Pope praises science, but insists God created world updated Thur October 28, 2010
    Stephen Hawking is wrong, Pope Benedict XVI said Thursday – God did create the universe. The pope didn't actually mention the world-famous scientist, who argues in a book published last month that the laws of physics show there is no need for a supreme... \

    http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2010/10/28/pope-praises-science-but-insists-god-created-world/

    Science

    Heaven is 'a fairy story,' scientist Stephen Hawking says updated Tue May 17, 2011
    By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor The concept of heaven or any kind of afterlife is a "fairy story," famed British scientist Stephen Hawking said in a newspaper interview this week. "I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when...

    http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/05/17/heaven-is-a-fairy-story-scientist-stephen-hawking-says/

    April 7th, 2012

    08:32 PM ET

    The Jesus debate: Man vs. myth

    http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/04/07/the-jesus-debate-man-vs-myth/comment-page-137/#comment-2281915

    Make sure to read comments

    April 18, 2013 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |

    Breaking News

    NASA: Three planets found are some of best candidates so far for habitable worlds outside our solar system.

    http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/18/us/planet-discovery/index.html

    May 3, 2013 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse | Reply

    May 3, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
  3. Science

    Free speech helps educate the masses..........politicians too !

    Gravity is not up for debate !

    BY the way ...................Splat goes a fairy in the sky !...............bye bye tinker bell !

    Einstein's Gravity Theory Passes Toughest Test Yet

    Apr. 25, 2013 — A strange stellar pair nearly 7,000 light-years from Earth has provided physicists with a unique cosmic laboratory for studying the nature of gravity. The extremely strong gravity of a massive neutron star in orbit with a companion white dwarf star puts competing theories of gravity to a test more stringent than any available before

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130425142250.htm

    Hey James Madison................religion has none it looks like.............with the comments on this blog.

    The Big question is ETHICS ! does religion have any ?

    The Ethics of Resurrecting Extinct Species

    Apr. 8, 2013 — At some point, scientists may be able to bring back extinct animals, and perhaps early humans, raising questions of ethics and environmental disruption.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130408165955.htm

    April 30, 2013 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |

    May 1, 2013 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |

    Dinosaur Egg Study Supports Evolutionary Link Between Birds and Dinosaurs: How Troodon Likely Hatched Its Young

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130418104324.htm

    And NO ANGELS the pope KICKED them OFF the TEAM last year !

    From Soup to Cells—the Origin of Life

    http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evosite/evo101/IIE2aOriginoflife.shtml

    the wrong path is Adam and Eve !

    Human Y Chromosome Much Older Than Previously Thought

    Mar. 4, 2013 — The discovery and analysis of an extremely rare African American Y chromosome pushes back the time of the most recent common ancestor for the Y chromosome lineage tree to 338,000 years ago. This time predates the age of the oldest known anatomically modern human fossils.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130305145821.htm

    No god(s) needed or required to graduate from public schools in the US

    Remember : Adam had to POKE himself hard with his OWN BONE to create Eve.

    No god(s) needed................... Old. DNA works..................also catches crooks !

    Ancient DNA Reveals Europe's Dynamic Genetic History

    Apr. 23, 2013 — Ancient DNA recovered from a series of skeletons in central Germany up to 7,500 years old has been used to reconstruct the first detailed genetic history of modern Europe.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130423134037.htm

    Ca-nabis and Cannabinoids (PDQ®) – National Cancer Insti-tute

    http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/cam/cannabis/.../page4

    Mar 21, 2013 – [1,2] These plant-derived compounds may be referred to as phytocannabinoids. ... have a protective effect against the development of certain types of tumors. ... In lung cancer cell lines, CBD upregulated ICAM-1, leading to ...

    Good stuff !

    May 3, 2013 at 11:27 am |
  4. DWN

    More Obama worship from CNN. How could anyone possibly be surprise? Bye Bye!

    April 29, 2013 at 9:59 am |
  5. bobtheshwab

    Faith Influenced the life and decisions of each U.S. President whether they we religious or not. Read "The Presidents & Their Faith" by Darrin Grinder and Steve Shaw.

    April 24, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
  6. Just Call Me Lucifer

    Reagans presidency was anything but a success.

    April 23, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
  7. Douglas

    Seek the real truth at http://www.gaychristian101.com
    Then to find your life partner seek them here at gaychristianmingle.com

    Amen!

    April 23, 2013 at 8:52 am |
    • Sciernce

      Doogie is not the truth a troll for sure !

      No god(s) needed................... Old. DNA works..................also catches crooks !

      Ancient DNA Reveals Europe's Dynamic Genetic History

      Apr. 23, 2013 — Ancient DNA recovered from a series of skeletons in central Germany up to 7,500 years old has been used to reconstruct the first detailed genetic history of modern Europe.

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130423134037.htm

      Peace

      April 23, 2013 at 8:13 pm |
    • Science

      Hey Doogie

      And laws of association makes it part of the devil cults too ...........does it not ?

      April 25, 2013 at 6:35 am |
    • Science

      From Soup to Cells—the Origin of Life

      http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evosite/evo101/IIE2aOriginoflife.shtml

      Bad Bad troll !

      April 27, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
  8. kenrick Benjamin

    Now we know.

    April 21, 2013 at 10:45 am |
    • Science

      kenrick Benjamin.......................make sure to check out the chessy banner when it shows up !

      http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/4b3afc5c2f/president-bush-reacts-to-osama-bin-laden-s-death-with-will-ferrell?rel=by_user

      April 21, 2013 at 11:47 am |
    • Science

      Check it out learn someting maybe ?.................url's funny science !

      http://www.funnyordie.com/?rel=header

      Peace

      April 21, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • kenrick Benjamin

      Science- let me ask you a question, is it not true that no two body of mass can occupy the same place at the same time. So if dark matter has mass how can it pass right through US.

      April 21, 2013 at 3:18 pm |
    • Science

      Something for you to learn and figure out aye .

      It is all over the place.............................

      April 21, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
    • Science

      kenrick Benjamin

      Read please..................you might learn something ?

      Unusual Anal Fin Offers New Insight Into Evolution

      Apr. 10, 2013 — An unusual fossil fish that has fins behind its anus

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130410082201.htm

      April 21, 2013 at 7:42 pm |
    • kenrick Benjamin

      Science Ha!

      April 22, 2013 at 7:19 am |
    • kenrick Benjamin

      Science do some thinking sometime.

      April 22, 2013 at 7:21 am |
    • Science

      kenrick Benjamin.........................that would hurt !

      http://www.funnyordie.com/?rel=header

      url's funny science.

      Peace

      April 22, 2013 at 7:28 am |
    • kenrick Benjamin

      OK science if you say so.

      April 22, 2013 at 7:47 am |
  9. bob

    Lets just cut to the chase here. I don't like this article and I'd like to point out that Canada Free Press is reporting that Muslims are celebrating Boston Bombings. Interesting how the American press is in the back pocket of the USA president and the entire Democratic party. That's why this type of story won't show up in the American press down here. Thank you Canada Free Press for having the guts to tell the disturbing but yet important story. We Americans have to be woken up to who we are dealing worth and start keeping a watchful eye on our neighbors of certain descent. Sad but true. Please share this message fellow Americans. God bless all those harmed and the brave police officers who brought this incident to an end. Best wishes to all true Americans. Keep your eyes open for neighbors cooking in pressure cookers ion a heap of cow dung.

    April 21, 2013 at 2:10 am |
    • Science

      The troll of bob/chad maybe........facts work best for teaching children !

      Evolution wins hands down ..........time for god(s) to get the HELL out of the way................so humanity can evolve !

      Dinosaur Egg Study Supports Evolutionary Link Between Birds and Dinosaurs: How Troodon Likely Hatched Its Young

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130418104324.htm

      April 21, 2013 at 6:49 am |
    • kenrick Benjamin

      Science are you proper or improper science.

      April 21, 2013 at 6:55 am |
    • Science

      Source listed above better than the bible's

      April 21, 2013 at 8:22 am |
    • kenrick Benjamin

      Science that's for you, but you haven't answer my question are you proper or improper science?.

      April 21, 2013 at 8:41 am |
    • Science

      It would be NICE......... but
      Maybe they should not have created the wedge !!!
      The wedge strategy is a political and social action plan authored by the Discovery Insti-tute, the hub of the intelligent design movement. The strategy was put forth in a Discovery Insti-tute manifesto known as the Wedge Docu-ment,[1] which describes a broad social, political, and academic agenda whose ultimate goal is to defeat materialism, naturalism, evolution, and "reverse the stifling materialist world view and replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic
      convictions.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wedge_strategy

      Peace

      Please watch

      The African Rift

      Dover Trial Transcripts............................................. FACTS.

      Below are the complete transcripts from the Dover Trial. Thanks to our friends at the National Center for Science Education for helping us fill in the missing transcripts.

      http://www.aclupa.org/legal/legaldocket/intelligentdesigncase/dovertrialtranscripts.htm

      Education

      Moving forward CREATIONIST you might want to take a blood test?

      Scientists Find Genes Linked to Human Neurological Disorders in Sea Lamprey Genome

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130224142915.htm

      Peace

      Facts work .

      April 21, 2013 at 9:08 am |
    • kenrick Benjamin

      Science if this is what you believe, good luck.

      April 21, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • Science

      Facts work well

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/04/13/pope-asks-cardinals-to-study-church-reform/comment-page-2/#comments

      April 21, 2013 at 9:58 am |
    • kenrick Benjamin

      Science FACTS, Please.

      April 21, 2013 at 10:11 am |
    • Science

      Where do morals come from?

      By Kelly Murray, CNN

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/

      Learning is fun with facts.......................... and facts work when teaching children.

      Atheist Prof. Peter Higgs: Stop calling Higgs boson the ‘God particle’

      Professor Peter Higgs said recently that there is no God and so people should stop referring to the theoretical partial that
      bears his name as the “God particle.”

      http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/04/08/atheist-prof-peter-higgs-stop-calling-higgs-bosen-the-god-particle/

      Pope praises science, but insists God created world updated Thur October 28, 2010
      Stephen Hawking is wrong, Pope Benedict XVI said Thursday – God did create the universe. The pope didn't actually mention the world-famous scientist, who argues in a book published last month that the laws of physics show there is no need for a supreme... \

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2010/10/28/pope-praises-science-but-insists-god-created-world/

      Science

      Heaven is 'a fairy story,' scientist Stephen Hawking says updated Tue May 17, 2011
      By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor The concept of heaven or any kind of afterlife is a "fairy story," famed British scientist Stephen Hawking said in a newspaper interview this week. "I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when...

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/05/17/heaven-is-a-fairy-story-scientist-stephen-hawking-says/

      Science

      It would be nice......... but
      Maybe they should not have created the wedge !!!
      The wedge strategy is a political and social action plan authored by the Discovery Insti-tute, the hub of the intelligent design movement. The strategy was put forth in a Discovery Insti-tute manifesto known as the Wedge Docu-ment,[1] which describes a broad social, political, and academic agenda whose ultimate goal is to defeat materialism, naturalism, evolution, and "reverse the stifling materialist world view and replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic
      convictions.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wedge_strategy

      April 21, 2013 at 10:12 am |
    • Science

      Is that you Chad ?

      Peace

      Have a great life

      Later !

      April 21, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • kenrick Benjamin

      Science you mean like the Higgs was supposed have been the answer to all.

      April 21, 2013 at 10:23 am |
    • Science

      It did not create Adam and Eve !

      April 21, 2013 at 10:31 am |
  10. Bob1god

    Religion what is it good for? Absolutely nothing!

    April 20, 2013 at 10:12 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      It's good for those who cannot think for themselves and/or cannot handle reality.

      April 20, 2013 at 10:14 am |
  11. R.M. Goodswell

    Wish he had channeled Sam Harris just for that crowd. or the late, great Hitch if he was feeling less than diplomatic.....Either would have given that interfaith crowd a message they so desperately need to hear.

    April 20, 2013 at 12:13 am |
    • History Channel's "The Bible" Parts 3 & 4 - In Under 11 Minutes!

      messeage for bible thumpers

      April 20, 2013 at 4:23 am |
  12. wjm

    Big Shiz, I really like the comebacks you use man, but having to fend off all of these tools could be a full time job. When I was up north doing a job about 15 years ago I read something on the side of a fry truck. Its said " Never argue with an idiot, they get you down to their level and beat you with experience", and its really obvious these idiots have a ton of experience.

    Peace

    April 19, 2013 at 8:34 pm |
  13. Hallelujah!

    Yes you can!! Hallelujah!

    April 19, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
  14. meifumado

    Time to punch the clock!

    Have a great weekend everyone!

    April 19, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
    • Hallelujah!

      Hallelujah! Yes you can!!

      April 19, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.